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Does Working Out Lower Your Immune System? New Research on Myth

8 minute read


Is exercise good for you? It may sound like an obvious “yes,” but you might be surprised to learn that for a long time, there was a widely shared myth about how exercising too much could put a strain on your immune system.

The thinking was, if you exercise too hard, you wear down your muscles and organs and other parts of your body, thereby weakening your defenses and opening your body up to harmful disease causing organisms.

But the truth is, thanks to a recent scientific study, strenuous exercise does not negatively affect your body’s immune system.

Why Exercise Won’t Stress Out Your Immunity

The research in this study shows that strenuous exercise may in fact improve your body’s defenses against disease.

The previous myth was supported by the fact that after strenuous exercise, it can be observed that there are fewer white blood cells in the bloodstream for several hours.

| Related: Exercise in Old Age Boosts Immunity: Why Cyclists Age Better |

However, the new evidence suggests that this lack of white blood cells may in fact be a sign that they are hard at work in other parts of the body. That means your immune system is actually working harder and functioning better after a good workout.

There are a few other reasons the researchers gave for why people may mistakenly assume exercising can harm their immune system.

For one, when you’re in any kind of public space with a crowd of people, such as a gym or workout facility, you increase your odds of contracting some type of infection. Similarly, if you exercise outdoors often, doing so in the cold or in the rain can open yourself up to catching an illness.

Psychological stress can also increase your risk of getting a disease, so depending on the nature of your workout, that could be a factor.

The researchers involved in the study went on to say that the benefits of a proper exercise regimen far outweigh any potential negatives. And of course, we agree.

Here are a few benefits of exercise that might motivate you to head to the gym:

Heart Health

Working out is great for blood flow, heart rate, and a whole host of other heart health-related areas. Working out regularly has been linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular problems.

Proper exercise is a great way to support healthy heart function, even if you only exercise a small amount every day.

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It doesn’t even have to be particularly strenuous. Even just a quick walk or some light calisthenics can go a long way towards boosting your heart health and keeping your entire cardiovascular system in good working order.

More Energy

Working out is also a great way to boost your body’s natural energy. When you fall out of a workout routine, your body gets acclimated to the lack of activity, and it can cause you to feel sluggish or slow.

It may seem counterintuitive, but starting your morning out with a good workout can actually keep your energy levels up throughout the day. Getting your blood pumping and your muscles warm will help keep you awake, even if you have to sit at your desk at work for a long portion of the day.

Better Mood

Exercise is linked to a better mood for a number of reasons. It provides structure to your day, and it makes you feel good about yourself.

| Related: 75-Year Harvard Study Reveals Key to Happiness |  

Plus, a better mood will help you in other areas of your life, besides just the gym. It’s been shown that a better mood is linked to greater satisfaction and success at work, as well as a greater life satisfaction overall.

The thought of going to the gym might not put you in the best mood, but once you get started on your workout, you’ll be sure to leave the gym with a smile on your face.

Mental Focus

Working out has also been linked to better cognitive function and mental focus. If you occasionally suffer from “brain fog,” or if you’re older, “senior moments,” you know the feeling that comes with a decline in cognitive focus.

| Related: When Your Brain Scrambles Names, You’re Showing Your Love |

It’s not a good feeling, and it can make even the most everyday tasks feel daunting and difficult. Getting a quick workout every day is good for all your muscles, including the most important muscle we don’t often think about: the brain.

Keep your mind sharp by doing some regular exercise, even just a light walk will keep you sharp and ready for anything.

Self Confidence

Going to the gym is a great way to help you feel better about yourself. Now, you should know, you probably won’t see an immediate full body transformation after the first time you work out, but even in the immediate aftermath of a good exercise session, you do feel better about yourself.

That’s because when you work out, you know you’re doing your body’s overall health a huge favor. Some call it a “runner’s high,” but you don’t need to be a runner to experience the joy of a good workout.

Social Setting

Working out can also be a great way to meet new people. Many gyms have a great community of regulars and staff, who will help you select the right workout for you and provide a fun atmosphere to practice your fitness.

But if gyms aren’t your thing, you could try walking or running at a local park, where you might meet a few new friends as well. Working out at home is a fine option too, but you might find the experience of working out with a group more rewarding.

The Bottom Line

Now there’s no excuse for you not to be working out regularly. It’s a relief to know that strenuous exercise isn’t going to do any harm to your immune system.

And, in fact, it can help boost so many aspects of your health, it’s clear that exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body. If you want to get started on an exercise routine, trying planning out a schedule in your daily life. This will help you adapt to a modified routine, and stick with it.

READ NEXT >>> Exercise Tips for Your 20s Through 60s

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